New Delhi: Two sloth bear cubs were seized and two traders arrested in Keonjhar district in the east Indian state of Orissa by Police authorities, yesterday.
The seizure reveals new source areas in sloth bear trade, even as joint action by the Orissa Forest Department and the World Society for Protection of Animals – Wildlife Trust of India (WSPA-WTI) has prevented removal of bears from the wild in Sambalpur district – the epicentre of this illegal trade in the country until 2008.
“Traders visited Sambalpur for cubs that are subsequently sold to Kalandars. We have been able to successfully cut this district off from the trade over the past two years through various community initiatives. Our team has also been assisting the Forest authorities to identify and monitor bear dens to prevent poaching of the cubs, tackling the issue from the root,” said Ashok Kumar, Vice-chairman, WTI.
In Sambalpur, WSPA-WTI helped the Forest authorities to create Village Protection Committees to protect bear dens around villages in sloth bear habitats. Comprising local villagers, the committees have identified and are monitoring the dens and areas around them to prevent poaching of cubs.
“However, the traders are now looking for alternatives. Areas like Keonjhar that are located near state boundaries and have sloth bears in the wild should be monitored to curb this trade,” added Kumar.
The two cubs were confiscated in Juhupura town in an operation carried out by a team under the supervision of the Superintendent of Police, Keonjhar, Ashish Kumar, based on undercover information provided by WSPA-WTI. The cubs, about two-months-old, were reportedly picked about three weeks ago from forests near Juhupura.
WSPA-WTI runs the Sloth Bear Conservation and Welfare Project to assist Forest Departments in various states including Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. The project deploys a holistic approach by rehabilitating Kalandars, spreading awareness through campaigns, trade control, strengthening protection in sloth bear habitats, as well as intelligence gathering.
“Our team has found that traders from villages in eastern UP and Bihar are scouting these potential trade areas and placing their ‘demand’ for bear cubs to the tribal communities. Stopping these trade instigators is the major challenge to sloth bear conservation today,” added Kumar.